23 Exciting Activities & Things to Do in Chatham, Cape Cod, 2024

As you start researching your trip to the Cape, you may be overwhelmed and unsure where to stay. The Cape is known for its beautiful water, charming communities, and fresh seafood. So where to stay and explore? Chatham is the best choice for all groups, regardless of age.  See below for 23 exciting activities & things to do in Chatham, Cape Cod.

exploring the Charming Main Street is one of the activities & things to do in Chatham Cape Cod

Chatham is in the central part of the Cape known as the elbow of Cape Cod. Easy access to multiple public beaches makes it a paradise for all ages. Beyond swimming, you can sail, fish, or go on a whale charter.

going to the beach is one of the best things to do in Chatham Cape Cod

Besides enjoying the water, Chatham’s downtown area is adorable. Browse stores and stop for a fresh seafood lunch. You could easily spend a week in Chatham and never get bored!

Looking for a quick & easy hotel recommendation?
Luxury- Chatham Bars Inn
Boutique- Greyfinch Inn
Moderate- Pleasant Bay Village Resort

What to see in Chatham

Chatham has many activities available year-round, while others are ideal in warmer weather. Most visitors aim for the summer months, but it is still enjoyable in the off-season. 

1. Chatham Lighthouse

One of Chatham’s most iconic historical sites, the Lighthouse guided ships for decades to safety. Today, it majestically sits above the beach and is a must-see while visiting the town.

explore the Chatham Lighthouse

2. Chatham Lighthouse Beach

Across the street from the Lighthouse, you will find Lighthouse Beach, an expansive public beach. Perfect for sunbathing, walking, or even a picnic, you can enjoy the beach in the fall and spring too.

The beach also grants visitors views of the fishing ships coming into the market daily, which would be a fun site for kids. Pay attention to the parking as some have time limits.

Chatham Lighthouse Beach

3. Stage Harbor Lighthouse

Stage Harbor Lighthouse is located near Hardings Beach, a large beautiful public beach in the community. Unfortunately, the lighthouse is privately owned and inaccessible to the public. However, you can park at Hardings Beach and walk on the beach or sand trail to catch views of the lighthouse. FYI- it is a walk- not challenging but also not stroller friendly and may be long for little kids. 

walking to Stage Harbor Lighthouse is a fun thing to do in Chatham Cape Cod

4. Beach time

There are several wonderful Chatham beaches to enjoy the beauty of the Atlantic Ocean. Most beaches have parking (varies in size), while some even have public restrooms, which is a nice perk, especially when traveling with kids. Before you go, make sure you don’t need a parking pass to visit some of these beaches in the summer months. 

Ovsyter Pond

Beyond Lighthouse and Hardings Beach, here are a few others to check out.

  •  Ridgevale Beach is one of the most popular spots with tide pools of calm water for small children to play in. You can rent sailboats here too. There’s also a snack shop in the summer. 
  • Cockle Cove is close to Ridgevale, with its parking lot and bathrooms. I found this beach to be less crowded than Ridge
  • Pleasant Bay is outside of town with limited parking.
  • Oyster Pond Beach is near downtown, with a small parking lot but picnic tables and bathrooms.

5. Biking

Many guests enjoy biking through the small residential streets to the local beaches. Our hotel, the Greyfinch Inn, provided complementary bikes to all guests. You could also bike downtown for a sweet snack or to the lighthouse. If the weather is nice, hop on a bike and explore!

Bike through Chatham to take in the picturesque houses

6. Main Street

You can’t visit Chatham without a stroll on Main Street. My husband and I spent a few relaxing hours browsing through the small shops and candy shops. Make sure to grab a sweet treat from Chatham Candy Manor. We tried some of their chocolates which were delicious. It is the perfect place for a guest with a sweet tooth.

Or check out Chatham Penny Candy, where there are bins and bins of individual pieces of various candies. It would be a kids’ heaven!

Chatham Penny Candy

Also, you must stop into the gift shop selling rubber ducks. There are tons of versions, and it is a site to see!

If you need a break from shopping or want a quiet place to enjoy your ice cream, grab a spot in Kate Gould Park in the heart of the town of Chatham. It is a great place to relax. 

As for logistics, you can park on the main street in a parallel spot or in one of the smaller parking lots behind the shops. 

relax in Kate Gould Park

7. Orpheum Theater

The Orpheum Theatre is a delightful point on Main Street. The historic building shows a limited number of movies daily with a small pizza restaurant inside. 

We ate dinner one night at the restaurant and watched guests slowly trickle into the movie theater, stopping to buy snacks and drinks. I only wish we had time to make a movie while visiting as it was the most unique place. 

Orpheum Museum is a cool experience

8. Cape Cod National Seashore

My family and I love national parks. We enjoy brainstorming which park is our next. I hate to admit it, but I was unfamiliar with the beauty of Cape Cod National Seashore. My aunt in New England suggested we take time to check it, and I’m so glad we took her advice.

The National Seashore stretches for a significant part of the east coast of the Cape. There are multiple entrance points, but beware, some require national park passes. You will need a car to enter as it is not within walking distance from downtown Chatham.
I would make time to visit, as the views and the water are breathtaking. It was one of my favorite things we did while visiting.

You must visit the National Seashore

9. Chatham Fish Pier

One of the neatest experiences is the Chatham Pier Fish Market. As the fishermen come in every afternoon, seals follow the boats, awaiting any scraps thrown. There is a large deck above the pier you can stand on and watch the seals fiercely swim for food.

You can also grab lunch at the Chatham Pier Fish Market, so it would be an excellent activity for a late lunch and waiting for the ships to return in the early afternoon with their daily catch. 

Interestingly, as seal populations have increased due to environmental protections, so too have their predator, Great White Sharks.   

seals at the Fish Pier

10. Chatham Marconi Maritime Center

Chatham’s Maritime history takes center stage in the Marconi Maritime Center. The Museum highlights the communication history of the region as well as hosts STEM educational activities. Check out their interactive exhibits, which are bound to be a hit with kids. 

Make sure to check their hours before your trip as the open hours vary each day, and seasonally, the hours differ too. This would be a great activity on a rainy day or if you want a break from the summer heat.

11. Atwood House Chatham Historical Society

The Chatham Historical Society operates the Atwood Museum. The Atwood house is an original Cape Cod home from the 1700s that is still intact today. Over the years, the Society expanded its historical collections and built new exhibits showcasing the rich history of Chatham.

Atwood House is a fun activity for those interested in learning Chatham's history

12. Nantucket Day Trip

If you are on the Cape for an extended time, consider a day trip to Nantucket. The ferry leaves from Hyannis, which is about a 30-minute drive. Book your ticket far in advance if traveling in the high summer season. The ferry will drop you right in the heart of downtown Nantucket where you can stroll, shop and dine before catching a ride home. 

You can also book the car ferry, but book in advance.

Nantucket is a great day excursion from the Cape

photo credit: J. Purcell

13. Breakfast at Hangar B??

Hangar B is a local restaurant specializing in Brunch. Their location at the local airport is why they list places to visit, as they are housed in an airplane hangar!

Check out some of the other great breakfast options in Chatham too.

14. Grab fresh seafood

my delicious meal of scallops at Mac's

The dining scene in Chatham offers traditional New England fare like a lobster roll but some fun places to try. If you are shopping downtown, grab a meal at Chatham Squire. Or, if you have time, make a reservation at Chatham Bars Inn. One of our favorite lunch spots was Mac’s, where we enjoyed fresh seafood sitting on the outside patio at picnic tables.

Mac's is a fun & casual lunch in Chatham

15. Shark Center

Starting in 2005, Massachusetts placed protections on the great white shark population. The center’s purpose is to educate the community on the history and conservation of the shark species. 

So many touristy spots in New England operate only in the winter months. The Shark Center in Chatham operates year-round, which is a perfect activity for a winter escape. Besides Chatham, there’s a location in Provincetown that opens seasonally. 

great white shark population is increasing on the Cape

16. Chatham Railroad Museum

For travelers who love model trains or the history of transportation, check out the Chatham Railroad Museum. You can check out their exhibits, a wooden caboose for kids to explore, and an incredible New York Central Model Locomotives display.

17. Chatham Godfrey Windmill

The Chase Godfrey Windmill is an old grist mill located at Chase Park. It was built in the late 1700s and is one of the few remaining in the state. You can take guided tours too.

Summer Activities

18. Cape Cod Baseball League

One of the neatest aspects of the area is the Cape Cod Baseball League. When we visited in June, we caught a game of the Chatham Anglers at Veterans Field. The atmosphere was laid back and fun. There’s no admission, and you can purchase souvenirs and concessions. I loved the community feel of the event and can’t wait to bring my boys back to a game.

Cape Cod has its own summer baseball league of college players

19. Kayaking & Paddling

You can rent kayaks and paddle boards from Chatham Sailboat Rentals to explore the beaches and small lakes in the region. You can rent hourly or for ½ a day. You can sign up for a guided tour of Bucks Creek, Nantucket Sound, and Taylor’s Pond. Remember always to have a life jacket on.

kayaking the Cape

20. Sailing

Chatham Sailboat Rentals organizes private sailing lessons and sunset cruises. You can also rent Hobie sailboats at Ridgevale Beach. Remember always to have a life jacket on.

21. Seal Tour

Located in neighboring Harwich, Monomoy Island Excursions offers tours to Monomoy Island, which many seals call home. The trip also goes by Stage Harbor Lighthouse.

22. Golf

There are several excellent options for those who enjoy a round of golf on vacation. Book a tee time at Chatham Seaside Links, which offers 9 or 18 holes. If you want 18 holes, look into Captains Golf Course in Brewster or Cranberry Valley in Harwich.

23. Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge

At Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, there are walking trails you can use to explore the natural environment of the Cape. The refuge covers over 7,00o acres which protects animals and birds at risk.

If you visit during the July 4th holiday, make sure to check out all of Chatham’s festivities!

Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge

Where to Stay in Chatham

Chatham has a great collection of small hotels, resorts, B & B’s, and home rentals. Our personal favorite is the Greyfinch Inn, a recently renovated boutique hotel.

greyfinch Inn

Luxury- Chatham Bars Inn
Boutique- Greyfinch Inn
Moderate- Pleasant Bay Village Resort

FAQ: Visiting Chatham

🌊Is Chatham worth visiting?

If you are interested in checking out any part of the Cape, Chatham must be on your places to stop! It is an easy drive from Boston!

🌊Does Chatham have a downtown?

Yes, Chatham has one of the Cape’s most charming and idyllic downtown areas.

Chatham Bars Inn

🌊When is the best time to visit?

Since it is a beach community, summer is the most popular time, especially June-August. We went in mid-June, right before most New England schools dismissed for the summer, so crowds were light; however, the weather was cooler. We loved the weather since we live in the South, but if you were looking to swim, it was a bit chilly (for us Southerners). 

Remember that the summer season has the best weather and the busiest time to visit.  The Shoulder season of Fall is also an incredibly time to visit.

🌊Is Chatham walkable?

It is walkable, but it all depends on where you are staying. If your lodging is near one of the beautiful beaches, you’ll be within walking distance of the shore. The same is true for downtown. You may be near a beach but not close enough to walk downtown. Some beaches are closer to downtown, so check out my post on the best beaches in Chatham.

Lots of guests were on bikes during our stay. I recommend a car if you want to explore Chatham more. Also, you can experience other Cape towns like Harwich or the Cape Cod National Seashore. 

🌊Is Chatham safe?

Chatham is safe! Remember that you still need to take precautions- lock car doors, lock doors to lodging, and keep items out of sight. 

In conclusion: 23 Exciting Activities & Things to Do in Chatham, Cape Cod

My husband and I spent a few days exploring Chatham and fell in love with this community. We are already planning a return trip with the kids! I hope my guide to exciting activities & things to do in Chatham, Cape Cod, has helped the planning of your next great adventure!

🌊 Cape Cod Resources🌊
Where to Find the Best Breakfast in Chatham, MA
23 Exciting Activities & Things to Do in Chatham, Cape Cod
Visit Cape Cod in the Fall
Best 4th of July Events on Cape Cod
Tips for Best Routes from Boston to Cape Cod
Best Beaches in Chatham, Cape Cod